Benesse is the Latin word for ‘wellbeing’ that resonated with founder Stephanie Gust years before the official launch of her company, Benesse Health.
Five years ago, Gust had amassed a great deal on her plate over many years. She was used to taking on a lot of responsibility and work, saying yes to everything, and handling everything on her own. That’s when her body said ‘enough’. Her skin changed, she experienced hair loss, and joint pain as a result of a physical breakdown. Doctors claimed stress as the problematic factor but didn’t suggest any supplement or nutritional change as a solution. It was at the suggestion of a friend writing an article on the benefits of collagen supplements on a runner who had experienced joint pain. Gust and her husband, who played rugby for around 20 years and had four major knee surgeries, both started taking collagen supplements. Gust cites that in her husband’s experience, nothing had done such a good job at regenerating cartilage in his knee. Having the brain and habits of a compulsive researcher, Gust dove into the subject of collagen and essentially became an expert over the coming years, “After trying so many brands, and combined with all my research, I simply wasn’t completely satisfied with what was out there.”
“I ended up having a crazy idea: to create a product that would provide the cleanest source of Marine Collagen. What does that mean? It has no heavy metals, it is third-party certified for sustainable and ethical, it’s a single species, it has no radiation, sourced from clean waters, no, is virtually tasteless, and dissolves immediately. All of those and a few more, bioavailability, wild-caught…so I started planning.”
Then, three and a half years ago, Stephanie’s son Marcus was born. Marcus was born profoundly deaf. “My pregnancy was perfect, and there’s nothing in the family. After a lengthy examination, when Marcus was 4 weeks old, a technician sat next to me and handed me a book that was titled, ‘How to Deal with your Deaf Child’. So that’s how we were told. That moment changed everything in my life,” Gust recounts. “I call it that moment, but it was really a month following that. My husband and I decided on many things that month. I decided there’s no way I can ever go back to my highly demanding career because my son would need me. Purpose of life, time, priorities… when something that traumatic happens to anyone, a lot of things are shifted, you do a lot of introspective work.”
After several months, Gust and her husband we were told that Marcus would be able to hear with cochlear implants. Marcus had the surgery when he was old enough, but that first year of his life was full of examinations and procedures. “Finding out that Marcus could hear, was the ultimate fuel and inspiration that I needed to take the idea I once had into reality,” Gust declares.
It was during this time that Gust built all aspects of her company, Benesse Health, and launched her first natural healthcare product, Pure Marine Collagen. Working through naps and nights to keep her son away from the constant screen time and give him the attention he deserved during his waking hours, Gust began selling by 2018. Now Benesse is in over 100 stores nation-wide.
She cites her husband as being very supportive and hands-on during the entire experience, making her entire journey a possibility.
She lists her top four self-care rituals as;
1. Being in nature and by water.
2. Having a bath at the end of the night.
3. Having a good soundboard, someone that genuinely understands who you are and everything that is going on to give you reminders.
4. Listening to music, especially on walks.
Interview by: Andreia McLean